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November 23, 2010
Mexican Cuisine - A World Treasure

Imagine it's the end of the world, and we have one last chance to preserve the best of human culture in a time capsule before flinging it out into space. We get the thing packed to bursting with samples of planet Earth's music, literature, art, sport, history, philosophy, science, crafts ... and then someone shouts: "Wait, we haven't included a national cuisine!"

Hey, good idea, but, there's room for only one. Which of all the great foods of the world should be the one to be chosen?

That's must be how the selection committee of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) felt this year when they decided, for the first time, to add a regional gastronomy to their World Heritage List.

The list, known formally as the " Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity", seeks to acknowledge, and thereby preserve, traditions, practices and rituals, that maintain cultural diversity in the face of increasing globalization. It's an elite roster of culture importance on which any nation is proud to be represented. So imagine the thrill for Mexico when the Michoacán paradigm was declared to be UNESCO's first entrant under the category of gastronomy. The news was officially announced November 16, 2010 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi.

One can imagine the uproar this caused among the various lobbyists for such strong contenders as French, Italian and Chinese cuisine. In fact, some countries which had long campaigned for the honour were reported to be particularly out of sorts about the decision. BBC Mundo reports that Peru, for example, had led a concerted effort for years to have their cuisine acknowledged as world-class, and after the announcement, published sore loser headlines in their newspapers along the lines of "What Does Mexican Food Have That Peruvian Food Lacks?"

Said a UNESCO representative, "Food, more than any other category, got the emotional and competitive spirits revving".

Despite the hubbub, Mexico, with its varied and vibrant dishes that pre-date the conquistadors, received the first nod, and quite naturally, Tourism Mexico sees this as an excellent opportunity to strut their culinary stuff. Helping the MTB celebrate this honor, world-renowned chefs from around the country, including the much lauded and Torque D'Oro Chef of the Year Richard Sandoval, will host nine dinners across North America to showcase the rich flavors of Mexican cuisine.

The series of dinners will take place throughout the month of December in Chicago, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York. In Canada, celebrations will also be hosted in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We'll have more later on the actual dates of Sr. Sandoval's visit to BC and in what restaurants he will be appearing.

In the meantime, why not scoot down to our own local Mexican restaurants and raise a shot a tequila in tribute to Mexican cooks and those smart people at UNESCO.

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